The University of Dayton Research Institute (UDRI) has published a video showing the damage caused by a consumer drone when it strikes the wing of a fixed-wing aircraft. The test simulated life-like conditions, the end result mimicking the collision of a quadcopter with the wing of an aircraft at 383km/h (238mph).The "main spar" of a wing can be thought of as its backbone and the way the wing attaches to the aircraft. We have a pretty good idea of what a couple of pounds of bird can do to an aircraft engine, but this is new research (AFAIK). It's quite dramatic; it doesn't rip the wing off the the aircraft, but you can envision controlling the aircraft just got a lot harder.
Despite weighing only 952g (2.1lbs), the drone tore a large hole in the wing, ultimately causing damage to its main spar. UDRI's group leader for impact physics Kevin Poormon said in a university release that the drone caused "significant damage" to the structure. Both the video and test results were recently presented at the Unmanned Systems Academic Summit.
Reports of "near misses" (near collisions) and actual collisions between drones and manned aircraft are increasingly common. DPReview goes on to add:
Earlier this year, a video surfaced of a drone pilot operating their UAV directly above a passenger jet as it left McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas. Similar reports of reckless activity have surfaced in recent months, such as an investigation into a possibly drone-related helicopter crash earlier this year and a drone-plane collision in Canada late last year.There was a lot of talk on other blogs about cheap hobby drones carrying small explosive devices; maybe that's not the only way of thinking they might be used.